What is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha Yoga is a traditional Indian system of self-development and self-perfection which includes regular practice of physical postures, called āsana, as well as techniques of breath control (prāṇāyāma) and meditation (dhyāna). Hatha Yoga is commonly just referred to as “yoga”, though properly speaking it is only one of many yogic systems which are found in India. It is now internationally ubiquitous, with a plethora of yoga styles, instructors and studios to be found in any modern city of the world. Popular yoga schools or styles such as Iyengar, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram, etc. are all subsystems of Hatha Yoga.
Integrating regular Hatha Yoga practice into one’s daily (dinacaryā) or weekly routine has many benefits for one’s overall health and wellness and complements a healthy lifestyle discipline in the related spheres of diet, personal care & hygiene and other forms of physical exercise.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
Regular Hatha Yoga practice can have a positive impact on all spheres of one’s life, be it physical, emotional, mental or even spiritual. Some benefits are immediate and others come from long-term, regular practice. Moreover Hatha Yoga is suitable for all ages and experience levels as long as the practice is suitably tailored and adjusted by an experienced teacher.
- Increases mobility and range of motion: As we age our joints tend to stiffen from disuse and we lose the mobility and range of motion in our joints which we enjoyed in our youth. Regular practice of āsana keeps our body limber and increases the range of motion in our ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows and shoulders.
- Improves posture and sense of balance: Regular practice of āsana improves our awareness and perception of our body, helping to improve our posture and balance.
- Increases muscle tone, strength and endurance: Muscle tone and strength is improved through āsana practice, and through progressively more difficult postures, great strength and endurance can be built.
- Relaxes the nerves and reduces tension: Regular āsana practice, together with yogic breathing exercises (prāṇāyāma), helps greatly to relax the nerves and reduce nervous tension. This in turn can contribute to better quality of sleep.
- Improves the sense of energy and vitality: All of the above leads to an improved sense of energy and vitality, giving us the strength to realize any goal or ideal which we have set before us.
Emotional and mental benefits
- Reduces anxiety and stress: As we learn to relax our nerves and control our breath, and build up our reserves of energy and strength, we become much better at managing and protecting ourselves against anxiety and stress.
- Fosters control over difficult emotions: The same applies to managing difficult emotions like anger, fear, depression, etc. We develop a stable, grounded nature and positive outlook on life.
- Enhances mental focus, clarity of thought & concentration: Especially through the more subtle practices of awareness, prāṇāyāma and meditation (dhyāna), we gain an enhanced mental focus and power & clarity of thought and concentration.
Potential spiritual benefits
- Promotes a sense of inner peace and wellness: Hatha Yoga was actually developed and intended to be a spiritual practice, whose goal was the attainment of true inner peace and freedom. Long-term practitioners of Hatha Yoga may realize these higher fruits of the practice.
- Deepens one’s spiritual connection: Though Hatha Yoga is a spiritual practice, it is not a religious practice, and regular practice of yoga helps one to deepen one’s individual spiritual connection, whatever that may be.
It is difficult to lay down rules about getting started with Hatha Yoga, but as a general guideline it is best to get started with a reputable teacher who is properly trained and experienced. This may include some form of certification from a school or teacher training program, though this is not always the sign of a good teacher. When looking for a teacher, use your intuition and find someone who will help tailor the practice to your individual needs, age and physical condition. Books can be helpful as a reference or study aid but ought not to take the place of in-person learning and tuition.
Curious about the basic asanas and their benefits, with simple guidelines for practice? Basic Asanas is a small booklet of 15 pages, covering 29 basic asanas with photos, listing the specific benefits for each asana.
- Basic Asanas$2.00
***With all best wishes for your health and wellness from Auromere!***